Jones gives Watson, Vunipola starting berths

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 10:13

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: There are two changes in the England starting XV for their clash against Ireland on Saturday.

Billy Vunipola starts at No.8 having come off the bench against Scotland and in the backline Anthony Watson is named on the right wing.

Jack Nowell and Nathan Hughes are the only changes to the bench.

Saturday's match will see 30-year old back-row forward Tom Wood win his 50th cap for England having made his debut against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in 2011.

"We've had a really good week's preparation," said England head coach Jones. 

"The intensity of training has been good. It's going to be quite an occasion in Dublin so we understand we have to be prepared emotionally, physically and mentally.

"The message to the players has been quite simple, we're playing Ireland on Saturday and that is the only thing that counts. We are focusing on preparing well, the only thing we can control is our preparation."

England head into the game unbeaten in their last 18 games, while Ireland have lost twice in this year's Championship and Jones is wary of the challenge they pose.

"Ireland not having anything to play for means they have the courage to fail which frees them up mentally," added Jones.

"We are a little bit vulnerable because we have already been crowned the Six Nations champions and we had a big win against Scotland, so for us it's getting the right mindset for the game."

Forwards coach Steve Borthwick is expecting a stern test off Ireland on Saturday and says the England squad are aware of the tough challenge they face in Dublin.

"I think Ireland are a very good side," he added.

"They have a forward pack that has experience, and have shown quality. They have pace and talent out wide in the backs. We know they are a good side."

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jack Nowell.

Date: Saturday, March 18
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 17.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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Italy 5 0 0 5 0